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Layers of Fear 2 Review

One of the best things about survival horror is how the supernatural can alter your sense of perspective completely. Ground you once considered solid can be dissolved into nothing at a moment’s notice, while the arrangement of a room will alter the second you turn the camera.

Layers of Fear 2 transports you into a world where nothing feels real. Every second of this horrifying journey was spent doubting my own reality. Corridors would shift from pristine cleanliness into displays of unsettling spectres waiting around every corner.

Bloober Team has crafted a horror sequel that hides plenty of deep, dark secrets behind its assuming persona, yet it ultimately feels like a step backwards compared to Observer, its previous game. It’s a spooky adventure drenched in routine, but one still worth embarking on if you’re a hardcore fan of the genre. 

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The nautical setting never quite reaches its claustrophobic potential

Set aboard an ocean liner, you play as a nameless actor who finds himself landing the role of a lifetime. However, the acclaimed director you’re working alongside harbours a sinister reputation. He’ll do anything he can to make his pictures perfect, even if it means pushing people to breaking point in truly disturbing ways. You’ll delve into the psychological backstory of this twisted auteur throughout Layers of Fear 2, the finer moments of which I won’t spoil here.

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Rage 2 Review

Rage 2 feels like two different games, grafted together and fighting for dominance.

On one hand, there’s a lightning fast shooter that’s up there with the best of them. On the other, there’s a sprawling open-world game that has no respect for your time or effort.

Rage 2 was the sequel no one was expecting. After all, Rage won 2010’s award for most forgettable game. Or at least it would have if anyone could remember the dull as dishwater open-world shooter.

Whatever else you want to say about Rage 2 — and I am full of opinions — you can’t say that it’s dull. The muddy palette of the original is gone, replaced instead with neon splashes of pink and blue, with explosions picked out in vivid hues and coloured smoke exploding outward as gunfire hits. There is mud. It is the apocalypse after all, but even the mud comes in a variety of colours.

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Team Sonic Racing

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was a phenomenal kart racer, expanding beyond the blue blur’s universe to embrace nearly every major property SEGA has worked on in recent years. Racing alongside Football Manager and Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki was a surreal delight, enhanced by a range of tight, responsive mechanics that even gave Mario Kart a run for its money.

When Team Sonic Racing was unveiled, my interest was immediately piqued as a result. Could this be a worthy follow-up to Sonic’s previous racing endeavour, or will it prove to be another lacklustre entry in the hedgehog’s fractured legacy? I’m bummed to say it’s the latter, as a smattering of clever ideas can’t stop this racer from being anything more than passable.

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As you might’ve already guessed from the name, Team Sonic Racing is all about teamwork. Unlike competing kart racers you compete in teams of three in most of the game’s modes. Each team consists of three members, with the vanilla selection being Sonic, Tails and Knuckles.

You can race solo, but the real fun comes from working alongside AI or real-life partners as you exchange items, take out enemies and slingshot each other across the track. Bathe in the trail of a team member’s vehicle for long enough and you’ll be thrust forward, gaining an extra burst of speed for your skilled driving.

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Life is Strange 2: Episode 3 – Wastelands

Spoiler warning: We’ll be spilling the beans on previous episodes throughout this review.

I have eight siblings, and I’m one of the youngest, so the familial struggle at the core of Life is Strange 2 hits very close to home. Sean and Daniel’s journey across America following the tragic death of their father has been a heartbreaking one as they seek to find a home in a country that simply doesn’t welcome them.

DONTNOD never shies away from this fact, either. Sean and Daniel’s Mexican heritage has already thrust them in the firing line by bigots in the shadow of Trump’s election. Now, the topic of weed legalisation, homelessness and sexuality come into fray, and many of them are handled with a deft that helps this third episode shine.

The dialogue still reeks of adults having no idea how young people communicate, but between the clumsiness sit quiet moments of contemplation that help the overall tale shine.  

Related: Everything we know about the PS5

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Total War: Three Kingdoms Review

In Total War: Three Kingdoms, the generals commanding your armies stand towering over the trees, titans of war slowly circling each other ready to batter anyone that stands in their way.

This is what I think of, again and again, when I think about Total War: Three Kingdoms. If you’re playing the game on Romance mode — and you really should be — each of these titans is given prenatural combat abilities, able to single handedly cleave up an infantry without breaking a sweat. The Total War series, for the uninitiated, is a strategy game that plays out at a tactical and campaign level. Players take the role of a character, letting you run an empire while also dipping in to control its battles, using cavalry, archers and other units to flank, demoralise and even just stab your enemies.

For many of the games in the series, battle has been strictly historical. In Total War: Medieval you’re charging forwards with knights and catapults, while Total War: Shogun 2 brings samurai to the fray. But, developers Creative Assembly recently mixed things up with a licensed crossover with Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise, switching out the samurai and knights with trolls, vampires and… honestly whatever a Terrorgheist is.

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Total War: Three Kingdoms is a weird breed, a mix of the historical realism the series is known for, and the superhuman combat and abilities of Warhammer. Back to those titans, towering over the campaign map ready to do your bidding.  

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A Plague Tale: Innocence Review

Death is so commonplace in videogames that you quickly become numb to it. Our brains are smart enough to separate what’s real from fiction, recognising a gory mess of pixels as a false illusion. I can watch people get torn apart by gunfire in games for hours, but put me in front of a real life UFC fight and I’ll quickly feel uncomfortable.

A Plague Tale: Innocence questions this tried-and-true notion, making me grimace at the acts I was responsible for, navigating mass graves amidst rotting fields as the Black Death ravages 14th century France. Its world is battered and broken, echoing the hopelessness many must have felt as disease obliterated the population.

Asobo Studio has crafted a startling narrative adventure that doesn’t hold back, showing what its young protagonists must do to survive and save the ones they love. It’s undeniably flawed, held back by clumsy acting and an inconsistent story. But despite all this, A Plague Tale manages to stand out.

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Amicia’s life starts off all sunshine and rainbows, but very quickly turns upside down

You play as Amicia De Rune, a young girl who belongs to a wealthy family. So far, they’ve remained safe from the plague, inside a bustling estate. Peasants cater to their every whim, ensuring Amicia will never want for anything so long as her family remains in power. A Plague Tale’s opening is a solemn moment of beauty, grounding me in a setting I grew to love over the eight hour campaign.

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Turtle Beach Stealth 600

What is the Turtle Beach Stealth 600?

Turtle Beach has long been known for offering decent-quality devices at a price that rarely breaks the bank, and that trend continues with the Turtle Beach Stealth 600. Questionable build quality aside, this is a welcome headset for console gamers.

This polar white headset, designed specifically for the PS4, is a robust wireless beast, although it can sometimes feel a little too cheap in the aesthetic department to justify the £89.99 asking price. Sitting somewhere between the Stealth 300 and 700 in terms of price and quality, Turtle Beach has crafted a satisfactory follow-up that comes out swinging despite a few notable stumbles.

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Sporting a colourful design, the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 is sadly let down by a cheap plastic shellTurtle Beach Stealth 600 – Design

The Stealth 600 are immediately striking, boasting a white design reminiscent of something you’d see pilots wearing in a mecha anime. From a visual perspective they look great, avoiding the descent into garish, over-produced gimmicks to which many gaming peripherals fall victim.

A domination of white is complemented by splashes of blue alongside the ear cups and headrest, deliberately playing into the PlayStation branding. If you pick up the Xbox Variant, it’s replaced with a bright, venom-esque green. It works a treat, and stands out amidst a gaming landscape where many headsets rely on a generic, black look that seldom leaves an impression.

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Code Vein

Co-operative play has always been at the bloody, beating heart of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls formula, a template that has gone on to define a generation of wildly different action RPG experiences. The act of summoning a friend to help you triumph over a seemingly impossible encounter will always feel amazing, even if you’re foregoing the sense of a solo victory to see the story to its conclusion.

Amidst a broken world filled with unspeakable horrors you were never truly alone, and that philosophy has persisted through dozens of experiences, whether its Deck 13’s The Surge or Team Ninja’s Nioh. Code Vein takes this long-lasting idea and hurls it out the window. No longer are your party members faceless heroes, but lively personalities core to the unfolding narrative.

Having disappeared for several months following a delay from its planned 2018 release, Bandai Namco’s upcoming RPG is back with a bang, improving upon things to create a grim adventure filled with potential. It stumbles, with some parts in desperate need of tightening, but that doesn’t distract from what could be.

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At a recent event I spent a handful of hours with Code Vein, diving into the opening moments to create a character and take my hesitant first steps into a post-apocalyptic world. Before we get into the meat of mechanics, I need to mention the stellar avatar creator. It feels like The Sims fell into a cauldron of gothic anime archetypes and you’re free to toy with the results.

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Turtle Beach Stealth 700

What is the Turtle Beach Stealth 700?

Launched alongside its more affordable sibling, the Stealth 600, Turtle Beach has produced a new wireless gaming headset for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Despite its respectable feature set, it still comes in at under £130.

The biggest hook is the Stealth 700’s promise of surround sound, active noise cancellation and the inclusion of Turtle Beach’s own Superhuman Hearing technology. However, it also boasts a wealth of additional EQ presets with support for PC, mobile and VR systems alongside.

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Turtle Beach Stealth 700 – Design, build and features

The Stealth 700 offers a robust build that’s primarily hewn from durable, flexible black plastic. It features a mix of textures and finishes that can look a little messy in places. On the smooth, polished diagonal banding across the outer face of each ear cup, in particular, fingerprints adhere all too easily.

There’s a touch of colour at play on both the edges and insignias of each ear cup. Despite gaming hardware’s typical propensity for flare, the Stealth 700 demonstrates surprising restraint when it comes to aesthetics, ensuring you won’t be mistaken for an extra in a Shinjuku robot café.

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Days Gone

At its best, Days Gone is one of the most riveting and bombastic zombie shooters I’ve ever played. Fighting and fleeing hundreds – and I mean hundreds – of zombies at once is an unrivalled heart-stopping spectacle, as the monsters clamber over one another, pouring through windows and smashing through doors to engulf you like an unstoppable tsunami of decaying flesh.

Impossible it may seem, but killing an entire horde in one action-packed sitting is actually very much possible. Armed with an arsenal of bullet-spraying weapons, a bag full of Molotovs and the wits to weave through tight corners and narrow passageways, you can slowly but surely deplete the horde’s health bar until there isn’t a single bloodsucker left standing. It isn’t an easy job, that’s for sure, but surviving such a breathless encounter is deeply satisfying.

It’s a real shame, then, that despite very much being the focus in the trailers and demos leading up to launch, these epic horde battles are reserved for the final quarter of a 30-hour long campaign. It’s an even greater shame that the majority of the game is made up mostly by formulaic missions such as fetch quests, shoot-outs and stealth camp clearouts, which are very forgettable and offer few twists from those found in generic open-world shooters.

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Days Gone sees you take control of Deacon St. John, a jaded biker and former military man who takes on the role of a bounty hunter in post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest USA. After being separated from his wife during the zombie – or “Freaker” as they’re known in Days Gone –  outbreak, Deacon settles for a life of isolation with his best bud Boozer. He only descends from his mountain hideout to do the odd job for the various camp settlements scattered throughout the region.

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Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain Review

I’m so glad I share Japan’s obsession with giant monsters. There’s nothing better than watching otherworldly kaiju tear through everything in their wake, whether it be citizens, buildings or the Earth Defense Force – an elite group of soldiers tasked with protecting our planet from alien threats.

For years, the EDF series has taken pride in one thing: obliterating alien bugs with an increasingly wacky array of weapons and mechs. It’s a grand old time, and Iron Rain evolves the formula in some unexpected ways, although sometimes falters under its own weight.

But that doesn’t stop Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain from being an enjoyable romp, using charm and cheese to trample through its inconsistency.

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This is the first Earth Defense Force title to be developed by Yuke’s, a Japanese studio otherwise known for 2K’s WWE series. Sandlot is normally responsible for the series, delivering tongue-in-cheek escapades across the world as alien invaders seek to destroy humanity. It’s a laughably simple premise, but what’s surprising is how much changes in Yuke’s iteration.

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Mortal Kombat 11 Review

If Mortal Kombat has proven one thing throughout its 27 year history, it’s that gratuitous violence in videogames is a timeless joy. Only this iconic fighting series can get away with such gore pornography in the modern age, its brutal fatalities acting as a badge of honour that millions flock to watch unfold whenever a new entry rolls around.

Mortal Kombat 11 continues this legacy featuring an engaging story mode, tonnes of characters and some unusual new features that make a satisfactory impact. After eleven games you’d expect diminishing returns, but Scorpion and company are still immensely entertaining.

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It’s amazing how willing fighters are to get back up after being stabbed

Mortal Kombat 11 is all about fan service. In fact, the entire story mode revolves around it. The timeline as we know it is thrown into disarray by Kronika, a villainous newcomer who wishes to restore the balance between realms by eliminating all events in Mortal Kombat history.

That means all the rivalries and relationships we’ve come to know and love are on the chopping block, but Kronika doesn’t realise that all this time meddling could result in her own downfall.

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Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition

Borderlands was a trailblazer open world shooter when it launched way back in 2009. Sending you out into a vast, post-apocalyptic world, you were encouraged to explore and grind for loot, as well as gun down anything that moved. Whether alone or with friends, Gearbox Software had served up an adventure that kept us engrossed for hours on end. This was not your typical linear shooter.

But 2009 was a long time ago, and game design has evolved in many ways since. With the recent announcement of threequel Borderlands 3, it’s time to revisit where it all began, on a remastered version made for modern platforms. Borderlands is an absolute joy to return to, and yet, once you hack past all the extra bells and whistles and get to the game’s core, you appreciate how much has changed over the last decade or so.

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Every vault hunter can be kitted out with a quirky selection of hats

A quick recap – you are a Vault Hunter, one of four ambitious mercenaries making themselves known on the hostile planet of Pandora. This is before the days of Handsome Jack, Sanctuary and the greater staples of Borderlands lore, and so it feels lightweight in retrospect. It’s almost freeing in a way, stepping off the bus and hanging with Claptrap before stakes were upped and the fate of the entire world hung in the balance.

On the flipside, it also makes everything feel bland and disengaging to a degree, characters mere spectres compared to the enthusiastic personalities they’d become in future instalments. Claptrap is still an annoying piece of trash, though – a high-pitched robot spewing lewd innuendoes that are desperately out of touch, like a friend who keeps repeating a once classic joke hoping for the same laughs.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

FromSoftware created a genre with Demon’s Souls, a formula that was catapulted to superstar status with Dark Souls and continues to grow, evolve and innovate with bold new changes. This path reaches a new crescendo with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a fiendishly difficult adventure that doesn’t hold your hand. In fact, it cuts it off in the first few minutes.

Set during Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku era, civil war has crippled the country into submission as warring factions fight for supremacy. Amidst this chaos is The Lone Wolf, a warrior who vows to protect a young prince endangered by the ensuing battle. He fails, disgraced and sworn to achieve revenge following Sekiro’s opening moments.

This brief setup initiates a journey that will last dozens of hours, pushing me to breaking points several times, and forcing me to reconsider everything I’ve learned about FromSoftware. Replacements for the Bonfire, Estus Flask and cryptic character development are all present, but everything that surrounds them is different.

The faster, more punishing pace is utterly demoralising, pounding you into the ground with mini-bosses that can slay you in two hits, paving the way for a gauntlet of vicious encounters that feel almost euphoric once conquered. You can’t summon friends to help you anymore. It’s all about skill, learning attack patterns and emerging victorious through the endless toil.

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Dead or Alive 6

The Dead or Alive franchise is renowned for draping overtly sexualised characters on top of robust fighting systems. That reputation is understandable, given how older titles such as Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 had you ogling young women on beaches, or even delving into virtual reality depravity if you so chose. It’s all a little gross.

But from what I’ve played of Dead or Alive 6, it’s clear that Team Ninja has taken the criticism on board, toning down the boobs and butts, instead focusing on what really matters – a fighter that feels fun to play. While light in mechanics compared to its competitors, Dead or Alive 6 is a great, initially simplistic 3D brawler that hides plenty of depth inside its many characters and systems.

It does falter due to a lack of in-depth modes and fairly nonsensical story, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had, both alone and with a couple of friends by your side.

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The destruction system on both characters and across most stages looks great

Dead or Alive 6 is a surprisingly pedestrian affair when it comes to modes. It doesn’t offer much beyond the fighter wheelhouse that we haven’t seen before, and new additions never really blew me away. That being said, the likes of Story mode, Arcade and DOA Quest still kept me occupied for a good number of hours. A large roster of characters that includes several newcomers is also a welcome treat.

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Razer Abyssus Essential

What is the Razer Abyssus Essential?

The first thing you’ll notice about the Razer Abyssus Essential gaming mouse is how normal it looks. Razer is famed for its series of bright, positively extravagant products that will immediately catch the attention of gamers. By comparison, the Abyssus is the shy kid too scared to ask for a dance at the school disco.

Despite its underwhelming appearance, this is still a formidable gaming mouse with an impressive range of features for the price. It won’t blow your socks off, but as an entry-level peripheral it’s definitely worth considering.

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The Abyssus Essential is a tiny little mouse, but it packs a decent punchRazer Abyssus Essential – Design, build and features

The Abyssus Essential is a tame peripheral, coated with a simplistic black colour with two distinctive uses of RGB lighting. The first is Razer’s distinctive logo at the bottom-centre, shifting between a variety of different hues once plugged in.

You can find the second highlight on the underside of the Abyssus, snaking around the bottom so a myriad of colours can be seen illuminating your desk. This results in some cool effects, enhanced further once I made the effort to customise it with Razer Chroma.

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Razer Cynosa Chroma

What is the Razer Cynosa Chroma?

Razer has long managed to produce an attractive blend of high-end gaming peripherals alongside more budget options that still boast that classic Razer quality. Of course, there are compromises to be found in the latter space, but the Razer Cynosa Chroma strikes an elegant balance by providing a colourful, attractive and mechanically sound keyboard that does exactly what you’d expect from a device costing only £64.99.

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Razer Cynosa Chroma – Design and build

Keyboards from Razer have become synonymous with outrageous design quirks and the gorgeous implementation of RGB lighting. The Cynosa Chroma ticks one of these boxes, but feels relatively pedestrian in its appearance. This is an entry-level gaming keyboard that sports an aesthetic to match, adorned with a distinctive black colour and 104 keys with programmable RGB lighting.

It looks just fine, but it becomes immediately clear you’re paying for a satisfactory performance and practicality rather than something purposely extravagant. This tame build quality might disappoint those looking for something more outrageous, but I admired how it didn’t strive to be something over the top.

A mellow design really works in its favour, especially if you’re looking for a gaming keyboard that blends into your workspace. Plus, the budget price point makes it all the more appealing.

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Trials Rising Review

Very few games make me laugh, and I wasn’t expecting Trials Rising to be one of them.

Trials Rising is a game, ostensibly, about taking your motorbike of choice and driving it to the end of a short track. Along the way you’ll have to plow through construction sites, gunfights, collapsing buildings and even movie studios. It’s a simple task, moving on a 2D plane from left to right and trying to survive the obstacles and set a good time. Come off, and you’ll go back to the next checkpoint.

However, it nails something fundamental about humour I don’t think I’ll ever personally grasp with any real success. There’s something inherently hilarious about failure or the way you come off your bike when jolted against obstacles, smashing into dumpsters, explosive barrels or even a wrecking ball.

Consistently I’d find myself chuckling at the way you collide with something at the end of each track or even the Buster Keaton-esque way you try avoid a crash when you lose control, skidding across the track on your back wheel, head skimming inches from the ground as you desperate wiggle your analogue sticks to try and regain control or, at the very least, stay upright long enough to hit the next checkpoint.

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Anthem Review in Progress

Editors Note: This is a review-in-progress of Anthem. We’ll be providing a full scored review when it fully launches on February 22. 

Bioware’s multiplayer shooter Anthem is finally here. Well, it is if you’ve got EA Access or happen to be subscribed to Origin Premier or pre-ordered one of many distinct limited edition bundles. It’s needlessly complicated, but having now sunk over 10 hours into the multiplayer shooter, we can cut past the confusion and ask – is it actually any good?

After a tumultuous demo period, many have been left wondering if Anthem will be a ‘make or break’ moment for Bioware. Mass Effect Andromeda crashed and burned and led to the studio shelving the franchise. Anthem lingers on a similar precipice, prepared to penetrate the shooter market with an experience to rival the likes of Destiny and The Division.

To be blunt and straight to the point, from what I’ve seen it doesn’t succeed. After several hours, much of Anthem is spent trawling through obtuse design decisions to experience limited pockets of exquisite gunplay and exploration. Despite launching in the shadow of its competitors, Anthem doesn’t seem to have adopted any quality-of-life changes that make them so appealing.

In its current state, the majority of my time is spend sitting at loading screens, navigating a muted hub or voicing frustration at a strange matchmaking system. One of these little problems wouldn’t be a nuisance on its own, but all of them compounded together leaves us with an experience that requires a lot of patience to play. It’s a huge shame, since the core of Anthem is delightfully innovative.

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HP Omen Sequencer Gaming Keyboard Review

What is the HP Omen Sequencer?

The Omen Sequencer is an absolute beast of a keyboard, immediately cementing itself as a welcome member of HP’s family of gaming peripherals. Boasting optical switches with a “speed you can feel”, according to HP, the sequencer feels immediately intuitive to use with its host of cool aesthetic features that compliment the rest of the Omen range.

Other gaming keyboards, such as the Razer Huntsman Elite, also support these new-fangled optical switches while simultaneously giving the Sequencer a run for its money. However, are they enough to help this device stand out from the crowd? After spending a week with it, it’s time for us to find out.

HP Omen Sequencer – Design and build

The HP Omen range of gaming products has already impressed with the Omen Reactor, a gaming mouse that boasted a healthy mix of striking visual hallmarks and a decent number of mechanical features. The same praise can be lauded upon the Sequencer.

First up, it’s far heavier than your usual gaming keyboard. So much so, that hurling this into a nearby window would likely do some damage. While offering a sturdy foundation for the keys to rest upon, the base is an unattractive part of an otherwise luscious keyboard.

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Latest Article Comments

tynmanz Monthly Studio Report: May 2017
11 June 2017
I don't think they should continue to put features into it. They can add them later.

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